Unexplored Territories - Part 1
Lieutenant Malcolm Reed monitored his station on the bridge as efficiently as usual. However, this morning his attention kept wandering toward the lift door in anticipation of the emergence of his commanding officer.
It had been 7 days since the captain had been in the command chair overseeing the crew. He had been on leave caring for Trip while he recuperated from his ordeal on the planet Montelosa. There was more to it, though, Malcolm knew.
He and T'Pol were the only ones that did know aside from the captain, Phlox and Trip himself. But Malcolm had a nagging feeling that even more was going on.
Malcolm had been the only visitor allowed by Trip while he stayed in the captain's quarters. That's where Trip had remained almost 24-7, except for periodic visits to sickbay for a check up. The captain had never left Trip's side during Malcolm's visits, which was actually good when Trip's behavior became erratic. It was unsettling to observe him getting angry for no apparent reason, or even frightened. And it was only Captain Archer that Trip responded to.
"Lieutenant," Ensign Travis Mayweather's soft voice called.
Malcolm looked up now to see Ensign Hoshi Sato and Travis both staring at him.
"I'm sorry," Malcolm blinked into focus. "What did you say?"
"I asked if you thought Commander Tucker was going to make the movie tonight?" Travis asked.
"It's 'Wuthering Heights', sir." Hoshi added. "He was telling us about it a few months ago and got it on the schedule."
"I don't know," Malcolm sighed. "But I'll ask the captain."
Hoshi went back to her study of the native language of Montelosa. The translators had worked fine to suit their contact with the aliens, but she didn't let that stop her. She always continued to learn the languages even after the contact was over with new species. It just seemed now to be busy work. They hadn't been on any real mission since that ill-fated visit with the Montelosians.
Not that any of them would want to start a new experience without Commander Tucker. The rumor mill had the chief engineer suffering emotional distress as well as his physical injuries. Not only did Hoshi wish for everything back to normal, she wanted the commander to be well again.
Travis watched Hoshi out of the corner of his eye. He knew she was feeling much the way he did -- that something was missing. They were going about their day to day duties, but it just seemed to be routine. Without Captain Archer and Commander Tucker on duty the "family" wasn't complete. With the news of Commander Tucker's bandages coming off that morning, they hoped he had healed completely. Inside as well as out.
Trip stood in the middle of his quarters, looking around the room. Everything looked the same as the way he had left it. But one thing had changed...himself.
"I've got to get to the bridge." Jon said.
Trip turned around to look at Jon, standing in the doorway.
"Thanks," Trip said. "You know, for walkin' me back."
Jon nodded. "So, just take it easy. Doc gave you two more days."
"Yeah," Trip moved to his bed and sat down. "Two days to catch up on all the backlog of engineerin' reports."
"I'll see you later." Jon turned to leave.
"Jon," Trip stood up as Jon turned. "Think maybe we could have dinner tonight?
Well, now that I can feed myself we can actually eat together again." He managed a smile.
Jon smiled back. "You got it."
Trip stared at the closed door. He suddenly felt so alone. He started to feel anxious, his heart beating rapidly. But he began the deep breathing exercises he'd learned in therapy with Phlox and Jon. He kept his thoughts clear and pure.
Opening his eyes when he started to sway he made his way to the bed and flopped down on it. The past week had been a time for beginnings and endings.
That morning Jon told him how he felt about him was never spoken of again between the two men. Jon had washed Trip's tear-streaked face, dressed him and combed his hair. Then, they had silently walked to sickbay to see the doc.
The rest of the days had gone by much the same as the ones before. Jon was attentive, caring, and respectful of Trip's limited privacy. Even Trip had relaxed enough to accept Jon's help when he had to use the toilet. The awkwardness they both experienced after that fateful first shower had faded, right after Jon had held him and tenderly kissed the top of his head and forehead. The two watched water polo games, movies and even had Malcolm over to hang out.
There were times when they did get aroused in the shower, but neither one made any remark or attempts to hide their state. With Trip's therapy for the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ongoing, they both knew the place and time to deal with their new relationship was in the future.
So what was their new relationship? Trip turned over on his side and stared at the door. Jon was, and always would be, his best friend. That couldn't possibly change. Could it? And did Trip himself truly have the same feelings, or was he just confused? So much had come out during therapy and so much he had kept hidden. Protected. It was the only thing he could have control over; how much anyone knew of what he really thought and felt.
Captain Jonathan Archer made his way onto the bridge with somewhat of a fanfare. Ensign Mayweather broke into applause, followed by Ensign Sato, Lieutenant Reed and the rest of the crew. Except, of course, T'Pol who just raised her brow and relinquished the command chair.
"Where are we headed, sir?" Mayweather asked, like an excited child on a car trip with Dad.
"I don't know." Archer turned to T'Pol. "I thought you did."
There was a silent pause and then Archer broke into a wide grin, which prompted laughter from the rest. Except, or course, T'Pol.
Jon half-listened to T'Pol explaining the uncharted planet they were going to pass in three days. He stared out at the stars on the view screen.
So much unexplored territory. His thoughts wandered back to Trip. They would have to deal with the biggest hurdle they had yet to tackle. How they really felt about and toward one another. Jon knew and had already professed his feelings. But Trip had only alluded to the possibility of feelings other than friendship towards Jon. And there were the shower incidents over the last week.
But Jon wasn't going to jump to conclusions. He was going to wait until Trip was ready to discuss the matter and be supportive of whatever decision the younger man came to. All he really wanted was for Trip to be happy. God, that guy had carried around so much baggage for so many years.
In therapy it had come out that Trip's string of unfortunate incidents on this mission, and prior, had all rooted themselves in the abuse at the hands of Uncle Chris. Trip's anxiety attacks; like the one in the cargo bay when that lifeform was integrating with them and linking their minds, or when he thought he was going to die during the Omega training mission after his EV pack froze up, came out of the fear of being helpless and threatened. Just like when he fought off Uncle Chris, only to have the man retaliate and beat him into unconsciousness. Then there was his smart mouth, a way he could keep most people at a distance.
Dinner tonight was going to be different for sure. But Jon hoped it wouldn't be awkward. They had done so well this past week after that first morning. Despite the circumstances the two had even managed to have a pretty good time most of the time, except when Trip would have an outburst and the mood would get intense. But even then, there was a lot of holding, rocking, hugging and the inevitable tears would dry up.
Jon had in no way ever thought he would be able to be as close, physically, to Trip as he had been in the last week. It wasn't just in the comforting moments that they had been close. One of their favorite past times had been the late night horror movie, complete with popcorn and candy, and even cuddling under the blankets. Nothing sexual at all. Just playful, like two kids having a sleep over. But that was all over now.
Trip's hands had healed and he moved back into his own quarters. Jon wondered if Trip would put up those walls he so carefully built around himself in the past. The walls that Doctor Phlox was trying to break down during therapy.
Then a thought occurred to Jon as he shifted in his chair. He hoped, with the revelation of his feelings towards Trip that he hadn't planted the seed of new anxiety for the man that he loved with all his heart.